Category Archives: Helpful Thinking

When we are disturbed, something is wrong with us

It is a spiritual axiom that every time we are disturbed, no matter what the cause, there is something wrong with us. If somebody hurts us and we are sore, we are in the wrong also. But are there no exceptions to this rule? What about “justifiable” anger? If somebody cheats us, aren’t we entitled to be mad? Can’t we be properly angry with self-righteous folk? For us of A.A. these are dangerous exceptions. We have found that justified anger ought to be left to those better qualified to handle it.
Twelves Steps and Twelve Traditions, page 90

I need to remember that if I’m disturbed with something or someone I need to look within a see what is wrong with me. How am I thinking about my current situation? Is my thinking mature, serene, and sound regarding this circumstance? Am I looking to see where I’ve fallen short?

I say these things not as another opportunity to beat myself up but rather as a point of reflection. Is there anything that I could do that would be better than how I handled it before?

Improvement is possible only if I can recognize how things actually are and not how I think they should be. Accepting my part in my circumstance is the place from which I can grow and become better.

Could I give in to justifiable anger? Of course I could but would that be helpful and useful? Not very likely. It is far better for me to examine where I fell short, where I’m upset because that sticking point is where growth can occur. Have the courage to look within. It may be scary to look within, but that is where healing occurs. Good luck on your trip within.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

Metaphor for my depression

OK, I’m acknowledging and admitting in public that I have depression. I choose not to say that I suffer from depression, as I believe suffering is a choice. Here I mean the Buddhist interpretation of suffering, the mental and emotional anguish that we put ourselves through when we don’t accept the present moment for what it is.

Pain is part of the human experience, suffering is optional.

I choose to say instead that I have depression, or that I sometimes experience the symptoms of depression. This simple change of the words I use to describe my condition allows for space for the possibility that someday I won’t have depression, or that I don’t experience the symptoms of depression.

Why all this talk about words? Well words have great power. If you read Genesis, God first spoke “Let there be light”, then light existed. Words are the first step of creation. The words I choose to use help create my reality.

Many of us view life as a series of metaphors. Some view life as a race, others view it as a game, still others see it as a constant struggle. What metaphor do I use to describe my depression?

As I mentioned in a prior post, humans are dualistic beings. I see myself as two beings in one:

  1. a wounded inner child
  2. a mature outer adult

My depression shows itself by a lack of energy, a lack of progress, and a lack of emotion. The swing is not moving.

The depression is a manifestation of my wounded inner child. It is sitting in the swing. It is petulent and drags its feet in the sand. Sometimes it goes so far as to pump its legs in the opposite direction to prevent progress.

My outer mature adult is smaller than the depression. I can’t give a single push to get the depression swinging. I have to time my pushes, and consistently apply positive actions in my life. I have to encourage the inner child to lift his feet. After that I can encourage the inner child to begin pumping his legs so swinging isn’t relying totally on my smaller outer self.

It’s not a perfect metaphor mind you, but it is fairly consistent with my experience with my depression. I am hopeful that consistently giving gentle pushes I will emerge from the depression, free and happy once again. This future is possible for you too.

Yours in recovery, Bill R

I still prefer to cling to the so-called illusion of religion. – Bill W., co-founder of AA

Bill W., the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wrote this to a friend in 1946, sharing this thought:

Many people soberly assure me that man has no more place in the universe than that of another competing organism, fighting its way through life only to perish in the end. Hearing this, I feel that I still prefer to cling to the so-called illusion of religion, which in my own experience has meaningfully told me something very different.

REFERENCE
Copyright(c) As Bill Sees It: The A.A. Way of Life – Selected Writings of A. A’s co-founder. Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, New York 1967. Page 137.

Making gratitude my attitude helps keep Robin out of depression

Through the Depressed Anonymous program of recovery, which utilizes the Twelve Steps, I have been on a journey of transformation from the everyday life of struggle, gloom, and desperation to discovering new freedom and new happiness – something I didn’t know existed. My entire perspective is changing. Other people who I thought were judgmental are now considered as all being a child of God- all created equal. What a provocative pence tool this is! Really! It helps me lift those negative attitudes and places them with affirmations. This is undoubtedly the most valuable technique offered in Depressed Anonymous to acquire an optimistic attitude towards life itself or simply “making gratitude my attitude.” So many of us were only familiar with the sham and the drudgery of life, but even with all the sham and drudgery in the world, it is still a beautiful place to live. We learn to change not the world but how we view the world and all its intricacies.

Using the Twelve Steps allows me to begin the journey of hope and to admit that I am powerless over depression. There is the time when depression overwhelms me so intensely that it nearly cripples me altogether. These emotions of failure, shame, and “feeling less than”, become so uncontrollable that I have to stop and simply admit that I am powerless over them. But now, I genuinely believe that there is a power greater than myself and greater than those emotions.

The Higher Power (whom I call God) is there to help me any time I ask Him. And you know what? He rescues me every single time.

Resources
Depressed Anonymous 3rd Edition, © 2011, Depressed Anonymous Publications, Louisville KY. (Pages 115)

Fun? When was the last time you had some?

In Step Four of our Depressed Anonymous Workbook, we find the statement: “When was the last time you had some fun?” You could also add when was the last time you actually laughed or even had a smile on your face? In one of our early Depressed Anonymous meetings. Bob told the group that the DA meeting was the only place where he could actually find himself laughing.

At our online Depressed Anonymous meetings, we are presently sharing our thoughts and feelings about Step Four. As part of our inventory, there are a number of questions pertaining to our Family of Origin. The following section helps me to take and reflect on my own family of origins and the relationship that I had with all those persons who I shared my life in those early childhood years.

In order to make a good inventory I need to go to my roots and discover how I came to be the person that I am today. AS the saying goes, “WE are our parents.”
When we were small, we “swallowed” our parents, meaning “swallowed” their main personality characteristics. Even today parents, grandparents, a stepparent, or guardian all are now part of our personality -for good or for ill. For myself to escape from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages from my depression I need to discover how I might have received certain messages about myself from those adults who surrounded me as a helpless infant and child. All of us have received messages as children -some helpful and others not so helpful. Some messages directed toward us might have made us feel worthless because we got the message that we could never do anything to please others.

Our Depressed Anonymous manual, with an excerpt from Step Four gives a detailed and traumatic account of one of my experiences as a 10-year-old child. This event had recurring consequences for my young life and into my adult years. We might want to take a deeper look into some of the unpleasant feelings that we have today, traced to their origins in our childhood. I know for a fact that these events, producing guilt and shame, were finally dealt with in therapy as a young adult.

“I still remember being embarrassed when my third-grade teacher told me in front of the whole class That I would never be like my brother who was much smarter than me. I used to feel my face get hot every time I thought about that embarrassing incident. But the more I share my shame of having been exposed to others about something that I had no control over, the freer I became of that fear. The same principle is at work here in the Depressed Anonymous group. We can take our own personal inventory of our weaknesses and fears and trust the group to hear us out and accept our stories of shame and hurt as we accept theirs. We begin to see how and why so many people feel bad because in their earlier years people made them feel they could never measure up to the way others expected them to grow up. By becoming our little child once more, we paradoxically grow up.”

More about our childhood experiences, pleasant and unpleasant in the days to follow. And since it is time for school to start again, it seems that our bodies, sensors that they are, remind us that the Fall weather and school both arrive at the same time of year.

(c) The Depressed Anonymous Workbook (2002) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p.29.
(c) Depressed Anonymous, (2011) THIRD EDITION. Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, p. 55.

Willingness to Take Baby Steps

A common question in other 12 step fellowships is “Are you willing to go to any lengths to achieve recovery?” When thinking about willingness and my depression, I don’t know how well this applied to me. I mean, if I had the willingness to go to any lengths when I was in my deepest darkest depression, I would have just hopped out of bed, embraced the day, and ran a 5K! But that is not how it worked for me!
When I was in the depths of my depression, my willingness had gone out the door. “What was the purpose anyway?” I thought. I didn’t think I could get any better. But Depressed Anonymous showed me that there is hope, and there is a way out. For me, that path to recovery has been a series of baby steps. After coming to meetings, I saw people who were like me; people who really suffered from depression, and I saw that they were recovering. Once I had the realization that there was hope, I needed to ask myself a question. “Just for today, am I willing to take a baby step to help myself recover from depression?”
This was something that I could comprehend and that I thought might be possible. Yes, I can take a baby step and get out of bed. Yes, I can take a baby step and call someone from the fellowship. Yes, I can take a baby step and order the literature, then take another baby step and read a page of the literature. I can answer one question in the workbook today. Yes, I can do one little thing to help myself today!!
That is how my recovery began. That is how I climbed out of that 80-foot hole of depression-one baby step at a time. And the beautiful thing is that I don’t have to do it alone! Honestly, I don’t think I could have done it alone. I tried for years, and although I met with sporadic success, I inevitably fell back into that pit of depression. Today I have the DA fellowship surrounding me. I have a Higher Power. I have a sponsor and friends in the fellowship who help me along my path. I am also here to help others on their path to recovery. Today, I am grateful for the willingness to take baby steps.

My word for today is “persistent”

PERSISTENT: Refusing to relent; continuing in the face of opposition, interference, etc.; stubborn, persevering.

This word has powerful ramifications for my life today. I am persistent in doing what I know is best for me. As I continue to live in the “present” moment – even though the “what if’s” cloud my mind about the past or the future. Flashbacks from past negative events and mistaken beliefs about myself are part of the opposition we face in our recovery.

I am persistent in writing in my journal about present victories, my strengths in overcoming and limiting all those negative thoughts that my internal mental critic keeps throwing at me. What persists positively is my ability to deal with the “red flags,” alerting my mind to thoughts or feelings which will immobilize me and keep me focused on the negative.

Persisting in coming to Depressed Anonymous meetings, reading the DA literature, having daily prayer and meditation time, I also persist in contacting other members of Depressed Anonymous online or by phone.

Doing some positive activity every day can become a habit, and the habit becomes an integral part of my life and behavior. Good recovery activities persist and provide hope!

Know that in our Depressed Anonymous program of recovery, it’s promised that “We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us -sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always arise if we work for them.” (Depressed Anonymous. Page.109).

I will continue to be persistent in taking care of myself today.

Hugh, for the fellowship

Today’s cleanliness can’t rely on yesterday’s shower

Bill, what the heck are you talking about?

Sometimes when we are depressed it feels like too much effort to take a shower. Sometimes you are just not in the mood. Cleansing yourself is not a chore, it is something you can do that is self-nurturing and you feel better as a result. Sometimes the shock of the water on your skin can feel like it’s too much. Continue on through it, you will eventually feel better.

So too goes recovery. Sometimes going to a meeting can feel like a chore and something you don’t want to do. Trust me, you will feel better as a result.

Diving into step work can be a shock to the system – who wants to take a fearless and moral inventory of themselves? Step work is just that, Work, but it is necessary if you want the deep healing and cleansing that is possible.

Some people say 12 Step programs are brainwashing. I don’t know about you, but my brain needs a good washing.

Recovery is all about achieving a daily reprieve from whatever your addiction is. Today’s sobriety can’t rely on yesterday’s recovery work. Recovery is a spiritual practice that you must practice. Not forever, just for today!

Dive in. Do the work. You are worth it!

Yours in recovery, Bill R

My word for today is Acceptance

Every day I have one word that travels with me throughout the day. Today that word is Acceptance. We admitted that we were powerless over depression and that our lives had become unmanageable.

Presently, a friend is struggling to find a way to help another friend who needs to be in treatment. The problem is that her friend refuses to accept the fact that she needs help. Her lack of acceptance that she needs help reminds us again that there is nothing that we can do except to “let go” and keep the focus on our own recovery. Let them know there is a Depressed Anonymous group that they could attend which could be of help.

In the meantime, I refer to the support that I receive today in the Depressed Anonymous 12 Step recovery program. I continue to believe that many families and friends want to “fix” whatever is wrong with their depressed loved one. They have no clue of the nature of depression and how immobilizing it is.

My own acceptance of not being able to “fix” someone brings home to me that I am not God. Because I am one of many who believe that they can only “fix” themselves and no one else, this acceptance is the starting point of our recovery. The main thrust of my wanting to produce the 12 Step recovery program of Dep-Anon, for families and friends of the depressed came from my acceptance that I had to “let go” and let God “untangle” something I could not fix. The only thing or person that I could change is myself. That is the power of admitting that I was depressed. This is the message that I want to give to the families and friends of the depressed. They need to gather family members together, keep the focus on themselves, and by putting the Steps into action in their own lives find the peace that they are looking for in their lives.

The following message is for a family who wants to help a depressed family member or friend.

The main idea of Step One is that we are at the point where we finally “get it” that our efforts to change our loved one will always fail. Our main thrust is to be supportive, non-judgmental, and uncritical. We are powerless over them and their behaviors. Our fellowship will now help us understand the nature of depression while giving us the critical and essential tools for taking care of ourselves. We begin to seek the support of other family members through the Dep-Anon fellowship and learn as much as we can about depression.


RESOURCES

  • (C) Dep-Anon, A 12 Step Recovery Program for families and friends of the depressed. (2021) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY. Page 17.
  • (C) Depressed Anonymous, 3rd EDITION (2011) Depressed Anonymous Publications. Louisville, KY.